Smuggler's Notch

I'm a native Californian. I love snow. If I want this snow I would drive 3.5 hours for it early on a Saturday morning to catch first tracks (being the first down a slope with fresh powder on it). Somewhere in my life I moved out to Ohio. Although Ohio has snow, and sometimes plenty of it, it is flat. This makes for some terrible skiing. If you look at the states around it, they too are flat.

Pennsylvania is the closest state that has "mountains". But the skiing there isn't great either. I skied West Virginia once (it might have been western Virginia though). I drove to the top and skied down an "expert run" that should have been labeled an intermediate run. This is not a mountain.

So I discovered that the best skiing is in Vermont. Luckily for a few years I knew several acquaintances that liked to ski, and one of whom had a cabin up Smugg's. This is why this article is about Smugg's and not Stowe's or one of the other resorts in Vermont.

Smuggler's Notch is located up a tight valley about 40 minutes from Burlington. It has three "mountains". Now while I wouldn't call these "real mountains" the resort does get snow, and there can even be powder. The mountains are Morse, Madonna, and Sterling.

  • Morse
    • Morse is a beginner's mountain. You'll find the slowest two-person chair ever. It may be better to take the bus up to the base lodge at Madonna and Sterling than pain yourself on this lift.
  • Madonna
    • Madonna contains runs for everyone. There's the easy "road" that pretty much all resorts have. You can make this run enjoyable by providing your fun (i.e. skiing backwards, spinning around, etc...). Most of the other runs are advanced and expert. Don't let east coast skiing fool you (see my comment about Snowshoe above). These are real advanced and expert runs. They're narrow, icy, and full of surprises. On one occasion I was able to ski several of the runs that are normally closed. They're great when they have powder.
    • There are a couple of lifts, but you'll inevitably be going up the longest ride. This is a harrowing experience for some. The lift is known to stop due to the high winds that grace the mountain. It's not too bad. It's just really damn cold.
  • Sterling
    • In contrast to Madonna's lift of doom, Sterling's isn't that bad. It's a shorter ride so you're not going to get as much vertical on your runs.
    • Sterling is probably my favorite of the three mountains. There are runs for everyone. The only downside is that the racing school has their course on this side. This can be a pain in the ass. In terms of variety there's your basic Super G course, glading (glading sucks don't do it), moguls, the easy road, jumps, and the ever fun go right down the center of the lift run.

Now you probably noticed I haven't mentioned anything about lifts. Well there's your downside. Smugg's does not have anything other than two-person or rope-pull lifts. Apparently the mountain's too windy for anything else. I hear there are bears too. This is really disappointing if you're used to Sierra-Nevada, Rocky Mountain, or Canadian Rockies skiing.

But in the end skiing is skiing. The mountain is enjoyable, and if you have to ski out east Vermont is the best place to do it.

Price Range
Time Required
An entire day

It's a little difficult to navigate to Smugg's if you're coming from out of town. If you're driving from afar you're probably going to get there late at night. While you're following your directions you'll be on the same street for quite some time, but it will take unexpected curves and turns. Just go slow and piss off the native behind you that are probably cursing you out as a flat lander.